- Ahsoka continues a Star Wars trend of Anakin Skywalker flashbacks that only focus on his future as Darth Vader.
- Anakin’s courage and heroism as a Jedi has only been detailed in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
- Ahsoka misses the opportunity to demonstrate Anakin’s redemption and instead leans more into his dark side.
The following contains spoilers for Ahsoka, Season 1, Episode 5, “Shadow Warrior,” now streaming on Disney+.
Anakin Skywalker’s appearances in live-action Star Wars shows have avoided depicting the Jedi Knight’s most commendable traits, much to the detriment of the character. Anakin’s prequel backstory has been praised by fans for adding a much-needed layer of narrative complexity to Darth Vader. But his flashbacks in Ahsoka have forgotten some of the character’s humanity.
Ahsoka follows the story of Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice during the Clone Wars, as she fights to prevent Grand Admiral Thrawn’s return to the galaxy. During her journey, Ahsoka has struggled with Anakin Skywalker’s troubling Darth Vader legacy and the implications it’s had on her own fight against Thrawn. Baylan Skoll weaponized these self-doubts against Ahsoka when he questioned the death and destruction of the legacy her master left behind as Darth Vader. Baylan then defeated Ahsoka in lightsaber combat, nearly killing her. Ahsoka survived the ordeal and, while in the World Between Worlds, was unexpectedly reunited with the spirit of Anakin Skywalker. However, the peculiar context of their reunion has continued Star Wars’ disjointed depiction of Anakin and his complicated personality.
Anakin Flashbacks Tried to Celebrate His Friendships – But Overly Focused on Vader
Ahsoka and Obi-Wan Kenobi both explored Anakin’s complicated past. In Ahsoka Season 1, Episode 5, “Part Five: Shadow Warrior,” Ahsoka found herself in the World Between Worlds after she lost her lightsaber duel against Baylan Skoll. Ahsoka finally reunited with Anakin Skywalker’s spirit in that plane and experienced vivid flashbacks to her Clone Wars history with Anakin. She saw how Anakin’s warrior attitude during the Clone Wars drove him toward his eventual future as Darth Vader. Throughout those traumatic flashbacks, Anakin’s ghostly appearance began to quickly resemble his corrupted Sith form. These disturbing changes finally manifested in the transformation of Anakin’s spirit form into his Darth Vader persona as he attacked Ahsoka with a red lightsaber. Ahsoka’s inclusion of Anakin flashbacks continued the narrative thread established by Obi-Wan Kenobi Season 1, Episode 5, “Part V,” where the episode featured a similar flashback to a lightsaber sparring session between Padawan Anakin and Obi-Wan.
Although the series faithfully portrayed Obi-Wan and Anakin as friends during the prequel film era, it also showed Anakin’s suspiciously aggressive attacks against Obi-Wan during their training. The episode compared Anakin’s combat to Darth Vader’s aggression in the show’s present-day when he angrily hunted down Obi-Wan and tried to kill him. The Anakin flashbacks were crucial inclusions for both series because they displayed his unique bond with Ahsoka and Obi-Wan. Ahsoka was originally Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice during the Clone Wars, while Obi-Wan was his cherished mentor and adoptive brother. The three of them collectively were close friends who experienced many adventures together before Anakin fell to the dark side. Even though neither Obi-Wan Kenobi nor Ahsoka included a live-action reunion of the full Jedi trio, these flashbacks alone indirectly honored Anakin’s past friendships during the in-universe era of the prequels. But at the same time, Ahsoka and Obi-Wan Kenobi inherited the prequels’ storytelling missteps regarding Anakin. His transformation into Darth Vader entirely overshadowed any comfort these Clone Wars memories could’ve conveyed.
The Prequels’ Depiction of Anakin Wasn’t Perfect
The Star Wars prequels were exclusively fixated on Anakin’s eventual turn to the dark side, much to the detriment of the character’s other qualities. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones featured a younger Anakin who violently massacred an entire Tusken camp to avenge his dead mother. Furthermore, the film showed Anakin’s early resentment of Obi-Wan and his insatiable desire for more power. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith spent very little time showing Anakin’s friendship with Obi-Wan before depicting his efforts to murder his former master. Star Wars television has been faithful to the prequels in this regard — Ahsoka and Obi-Wan Kenobi emphasized the inner darkness that Anakin always possessed. Even when these Jedi had flashbacks to Anakin’s most triumphant moments, they were usually presented in the context of him eventually becoming Vader. However, this story element has always undermined Anakin’s portrayal in Star Wars Episodes II and III.
By focusing solely on Anakin Skywalker’s capacity for the dark side, those films neglected to portray the character’s humanity and why his betrayal was such a shock. Star Wars series like Ahsoka have inherited these same narrative flaws from the prequels. These Jedi-focused series demonstrated the love that heroes like Obi-Wan and Ahsoka had for Anakin, but such love has usually been contextualized by Anakin’s most questionable moments — like channeling the dark side for a training session or teaching a child like Ahsoka to fight in a war. Although the Ahsoka series laid the groundwork for a brilliant Star Wars tale in its first five episodes, its flashbacks have struggled to demonstrate the reasons why Anakin was such a beloved friend to these noble characters.
Star Wars Has Forgotten Anakin’s Most Iconic Scene
Ahsoka’s focus on Anakin Skywalker’s darkness was a peculiar creative choice given the series’ chronological position in the Star Wars timeline. The events of the show took place after Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, with many years having passed since Darth Vader heroically redeemed himself by saving Luke Skywalker. The finale of that film ended with Anakin having abandoned his Vader persona to become his old heroic self again.
But Ahsoka showed that Darth Vader was still a major part of Anakin’s Force spirit after Return of the Jedi, especially when he re-introduced himself to his former Padawan in the World Between Worlds. The Ahsoka narrative had a unique opportunity to present a Force ghost of Anakin who reconnected with the heroism of his early years and became fully at peace with his past transgressions. Instead, the series depicted Vader as inseparable from Anakin’s spirit and completely overlooked the character’s iconic redemption scene.
The Clone Wars Better Balanced Anakin’s Two Sides
Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been the only Star Wars series that has effectively portrayed the dual sides of Anakin’s complex character. While The Clone Wars’ animated portrayal of Anakin didn’t shy away from his dark side, it also highlighted the most virtuous aspects of his personality. Anakin was a kind and inspirational hero of the Republic and fought courageously alongside Captain Rex and the other clones during the show’s seven seasons. The show also did an excellent job of demonstrating how much Anakin loved and cared about Obi-Wan. Furthermore, Anakin’s training of Ahsoka in the series helped shape her into a heroic Jedi during that turbulent time of war. But the live-action Ahsoka series has largely ignored Anakin’s heroic moments in The Clone Wars and suggested that he wasn’t a conventional mentor for Ahsoka.
By only showing one side of Anakin, Ahsoka struggled to display the full nuances of his character — both the positive and the negative aspects of his personality. Ahsoka’s exclusive focus on Anakin’s dark side reduced his character to his villainous legacy and failed to recognize the heroism that made Anakin a compelling protagonist in The Clone Wars. Even though Ahsoka’s Anakin flashbacks were a comforting reminder of the Jedi’s glory days, they also highlighted the severe missteps in Star Wars’ television treatment of the character. As a result, these series have neglected the heroic aspects of Anakin’s character and have overlooked the nuanced complexity that made him a beloved Jedi.
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